Being Wrong

The Key to Science (and Life) Is Being Wrong

“It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is,” Feynman proclaimed, gesticulating in wide, circular, somewhat flamboyant motions. “It doesn’t make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.”

Feynman was absolutely right.

I agree with this; Feynman had quite a talent for being succinct. However, the converse of this is not true: just because a theory agrees with experiment is not sufficient to confirm that the theory is right — there’s the possibility that competing theories predict the same individual result in some experiment, especially if the prediction is vague. It’s one reason we like mathematical models, which give us specific predictions.

2 thoughts on “Being Wrong

  1. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is…who made the guess, or what his name is…” Yes it does. Faith’s heresy is knowledge, for gods arise from ignorance as a test of faith through revelation. Grant funding’s heresy is discovery, for money flows as zero risk through PERT charts. Both paths are paved with absolute certainty. The future is forever unexpected.
    Armies march to VICTORY! in uniform.
    “Not so funny now is it, funny man?” Creedy, “V for Vendetta

  2. I agree,

    Mathematical models that give us specific predictions allow for the comparison and analysis of the different procedures/processes used to make these predictions in the converse, to find out what they all have in common, so we can build on solid foundation for future scientific endeavour.

    Uncertainty also has a similar converse where theories may never be absolutely certain but one certain proof to the contrary will break them.

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